Monday, July 29, 2013

Blood, Smoke and Ashes by Bradley Convissar

at 2:30 AM

Chapter 2

Michael Malone threw his briefcase onto the bed, kicked the loafers off his weary feet, shrugged his suit coat onto the floor, and began to undo the knot of his tie, which felt like it had been strangling him for the past hour.  Despite the massive amount of deodorant he had used that morning, and despite the undershirt he wore, he knew that he had sweated through to the pits of his powder blue dress shirt.  Just knowing that he would find large, saucer-sized stains under his arms when he got the shirt off made him feel dirty.  He rapidly undid the buttons down the front, popping a loose specimen onto the floor in his haste to get undressed.  He pulled off the shirt, peeled off the undershirt, and slid off his pants, all so rapidly that it appeared to be a single acrobatic motion.  Suddenly naked except for the black socks pulled up to his knees and a pair of plaid boxers, he moved in front of the nearest vent, which was furiously pumping out cold air to combat the perpetual dry heat of the desert.

God I hate Las Vegas, Michael thought as he slowly rotated in front of the frigid air like a rotisserie chicken.  Hot even in the god damn spring.  But he had little choice in the matter.  You went where the company sent you, and the company sent you to where the conventions were held, and every three years the largest dental convention in the country hosted their annual event in Vegas (this year it was at the Bellagio).  And since he was a senior regional sales rep for CoreGen, the company that had just developed the next generation dental implant that promised high success rates at a ridiculously low cost, he was expected to attend the event personally.  Of course, CoreGen was too cheap to put Michael and his three associates up at the Bellagio, so they were staying cross town at Treasure Island, which meant he actually had to go outside to get from his room to the convention.  At least there was storage space at the Bellagio for his equipment so he didn’t have to haul his products around town each day.

If he had learned one thing about dentists over the past ten years, besides the fact that he hated going to them, it was that they liked to play golf.  And party.  And gamble.  To that end, they cycled between Vegas, Cancun and The Bahamas every three years.  Michael preferred the more tropical destinations.  True, they were hot.  And humid.  But they were on fucking beaches, not in the middle of the fucking desert.  And in his mind, that made all the difference.

Thankfully, it was Saturday night and only one day of chaos remained.  Tomorrow night he would be on a plane winging his way back East, to his home, to his family, to familiar surroundings and more pleasant weather.  He much preferred to talk to doctors in one-on-one settings in their offices and in small groups at schools than deal with the frantic pace of a convention floor where the people he talked to tended to have the attention span of a three year old.  They stopped by, chatted for a minute or two, feigned interest in many cases, grabbed some pamphlets and free pens and candy, then moved onto the next vendor, looking for a better deal.  And more free stuff.  But being visible at these conventions was a necessary evil when competition was stiff, and truth be told, the company did sell a good amount of product most years, which made it worth the time and hassle. 

Michael looked at the clock on the end table next to the bed.  It was five-thirty.  He had made plans with the rest of the contingent from CoreGen to meet at the buffet downstairs at six-fifteen.  That gave him forty-five minutes to shower, dress and relax.  Not a whole lot of time, but enough.

He sat on the edge of his bed, pulled off his socks, then stood and dragged down his boxers.  Naked as the day he was born, but with quite a few more wrinkles and freckles and unsightly bulges, he made his way to the bathroom where the promise of a nice hot shower beckoned him.  He looked at himself in the mirror and grimaced at the man who looked back at him.  He swore that his already thinning brown hair had grown even sparser since he touched down in Vegas two days ago.  His brown eyes, normally wide and vibrant, were half closed, dark bags dangling underneath.  The muscles around his mouth were sore from all the smiling he had to do all day, resulting in a slight frown.  And his normally pale flesh had taken on an even paler cast from dehydration and exhaustion.  His body would rebound after the convention ended, but he hated what these events did to him.  They simply ran him ragged.  He stepped back from the mirror, patted the small paunch around his middle that he had developed over the past several years, and sighed.  It wasn’t as bad as what many men his age carried around, certainly not a full spare tire, but it wasn’t something he was proud of.  As he leaned into the shower and turned on the water, he vowed to work out a little more and eat a little better when he got home. 

He put one foot in the shower, the gentle pounding of water on his aching foot feeling like heaven, when a phone rang in the main room.  It wasn’t the hotel phone.  It was a cell phone.  Not his personal cell phone and not his office cell phone, but the disposable cell phone he had bought yesterday morning upon arriving in the City of Sin.

He paused when he heard the ring, then pulled his foot from the shower and half hopped, half shambled to where he had dropped his jacket on the floor.  Fingers flying, he pulled all three phones from an inside pocket, then answered the one that was ringing.

“Brian,” a feminine voice purred from the other end.

“Uh, yeah, this is Brian,” Michael stammered, feeling instantly guilty and just plain awful about himself.

“Are we still on for tonight?”

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Genre – Thriller / Horror

Rating – PG13 bordering on R

(Horror with some violence / Some sex, not overly graphic)

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